A Slap In the Face May Be What We Need

When I was in high school I inherited my brother’s 1971 Volkswagen Beetle. Brilliant orange with a freshly rebuilt engine, I loved that car. Anyone who has owned or even been inside one knows there is not much in there to make it luxurious. It was just a simple car that my brother pimped out with a tape deck. For a 17-year-old it was pretty much a dream come true to have a car.

Because it had a rebuilt engine, a lot of care had to be extended to make sure the engine lasted. I couldn’t go over 55 m.p.h. for the first 500 miles. Torture for a teenager. I needed to be very timely on the oil changes…every 2,500 miles. I’m not very timely on things now, but I was horrible on being timely back then.

The man that rebuilt the engine was a crusty, salty old fellow. He scared me into remembering these details of caring for the engine. One time I was in a hurry and just dropped the car in front of his shop early in the morning and just left a note saying the oil needed to be changed. I never even called to make an appointment, I just dropped the keys in the mail slot. When I came back to pick up the car, “Salty” just lit into me about not making an appointment, just expecting him to fix the car when there are other cars waiting, and how rude my whole handling of the situation was. I could feel my face flush with embarrassment and fear. I’m sure if he could have, he would have just slapped me. The words were enough. I felt slapped. My face was certainly red enough to have been slapped. But it was what I needed at that moment.

In American culture right now, there is such a fear of offending anyone. It is called political correctness. It is called tolerance. I’m all for giving people the freedom to choose how they want to live, but everyone needs to remember there are consequences for choices we make. Teenagers probably have the worst memory of all in remembering consequences, and being most offended when a consequence is handed out. If a parent never gave a consequence for making a bad choice the child is going to feel entitled and will be grievously offended when anything is withheld. Problem is this is not the way the world works.

When you don’t show up for work, you may get fired. If you never say sorry, you hurt people deeply. When you park in a red zone, your car will get towed. If you never pay your bills, you will have bad credit. Real life situations have real life consequences.

A slap in the face an instant and tangible consequence. I could have been offended, but “Salty” was right. I was rude and presumptive and needed to be told as such. I was being disciplined. We sometimes get so offended by the consequence that we can’t hear the words spoken about how our action affected another. Growing up a bit so you can see past the consequence and hear the way we offended is necessary in life. A sentence in the Bible’s New Testament speaks to this when it says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) No one likes to get slapped. But sometimes it’s what we need to see the bigger picture. What we do affects other people. I hope you can grow in being able to hear the words behind the consequence, because they actually teach us something.

The sentence before even says that God disciplines us for our good. Imagine that? Discipline actually helps us grow up. It trains us, and there is a payoff when we understand and live accordingly. The payoff is peace inside you and peace with others because you have learned that cause and effect are real. It seems odd to say that Salty’s slap was good. But it was exactly what I needed. I grew up a little bit that day. I’m a better man today because of that slap.


The photo is from Innsbrucke, Austria. The signs says “Private property. Transgressions will be prosecuted.” It seemed to be a nice way to say “You aren’t welcome here.” There was a boundary the owners wanted anyone else to know. And there would be a consequence if you crossed it. A reminder that consequences are real. | shot on film, Canon A2  photo by Mick Haupt

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